Growing Up Gazan, Ctd

In a brief post on Gaza’s demographics (43 percent of the population is under 15 years old), Yglesias makes a salient observation:

The election in which Gazans voted for Hamas … happened back in 2006 when most currently-alive residents of the Strip were too young to vote.

Andy Coghlan looks at why the Strip’s population is so young:

Demographers say it’s a combination of unusual factors.

One is that an unusually low proportion of Palestinian women hold jobs. “It’s the place in the world where the least women work outside the home,” says Jon Pedersen of the Fafo Institute, a centre for demographic and social research in Oslo, Norway. Latest figures from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics show that 14.7 per cent of women are in the labour market.

“In most other countries, it’s much higher than that, between 70 and 80 per cent in Scandinavia, for example,” says Pedersen, who co-authored a comprehensive study a decade ago on the demography of Gaza. Even in other Middle Eastern countries with similar cultures to Gaza, the proportions working outside the home are significantly higher. In Jordan, for example, 16 per cent of women have jobs.

The data from Index Mundi show that the fertility rate in Gaza, 4.4 children per woman, is among the highest in the world. That has steadily fallen from a peak of 8.3 children per woman in 1991. This compares with a rate of 3 in Israel, although the overall rate there is elevated by higher rates of around 6 among the strictly orthodox Haredi Jews. In most European countries, it’s about 2.

Previous Dish on Gaza’s children here.

“Your Fixation On Good Intentions Is Blinding You To Your Recklessness”

Palestinians killed in an Israeli attack on a UN-run school

Saletan criticizes Israel for retreating to its intentions to explain away the death and destruction in Gaza:

When you focus on intentions, it’s easy to lose sight of tactical decisions that endanger civilians as a side effect. High on this list is the IDF’s shift from guided missiles to artillery. Based on the U.N. review and its own reporting, the Times says the fatal hits in Jabaliya “were likely to have come from heavy artillery not designed for precision use.” Such artillery is “considered effective if it hits within 50 yards of its target.” That margin of error obviously increases the risk to civilians.

A human rights lawyer tells the Times that no matter how hard you try, “You just can’t aim that weapon precisely enough in that environment because it’s so destructive.” From the standpoint of good intentions, that’s an excuse. But morality isn’t just about where you aim. It’s also about the weapon you use. It’s easy to tell yourself that you aimed as well as you could, when the fatal decision was to use a weapon you couldn’t have aimed any better.

Benjamin Wallace-Wells suggests that Israel may not be as capable as it claims to be of launching “surgical strikes” after all:

Last week, the just war theorist and liberal Zionist Michael Walzer published a pained, moving defense and critique of Israel’s military actions in Gaza. He argued that Israel must be allowed to defend itself against disproportionate attacks, but that the IDF must also take more “positive efforts” to limit civilian casualties in Gaza, even if it means asking its own soldiers to take more risks. The State Department’s harshly worded statement after the Rafah attack followed a similar logical line.

But this all assumes that the Israeli military can in fact do better — that it can precisely control what its rocket strikes destroy in Gaza. The details of the attacks on U.N. shelters suggest this is somewhat less true than we often acknowledge. … Perhaps Israel’s military precision was always overhyped. Or perhaps this conflict is simply too messy, on the ground, to expect precision. Either way, it is impossible to describe the strikes in this conflict as surgical. They are everything but.

And as John Cassidy points out, the question of whether Israel has committed war crimes hinges on a bit more than the nobility of its intentions:

In an interview with Mike Huckabee on Fox News last week, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, said that Israel was guilty of war crimes, because it repeatedly launched attacks with the knowledge that the number of civilian casualties was likely to be disproportionate to the military gains. In a tweet on Monday, Roth said: “#Hamas still firing rockets indiscriminately at Israel. Those are war crimes. But they don’t justify #Israel’s own war crimes, killing many.”

Imposing collective punishment is also a war crime under the Geneva Conventions. The term refers to punitive sanctions of “any sort, administrative, by police action or otherwise,” that are imposed on targeted groups for actions which they themselves didn’t commit. Any postwar investigations are likely to focus on specific incidents and attacks that might fall under the collective-punishment rubric. For example, over the weekend, there were claims on social media that Israeli forces had shelled the marketplace in Rafah, causing numerous civilian casualties, after a Hamas attack in the city left two Israeli soldiers dead and one missing (and later declared dead). If such an attack did take place—and if it was intended to punish or terrorize the people of Rafah—it could be deemed a war crime.

(Photo: A Palestinian, injured by an Israeli military strike on a UN school, reacts as he lies on the ground, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on August 3, 2014. By Ali Hassan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Can The American Position On Israel Ever Change?

Beauchamp considers the implications of the Obama administration’s criticism of Israel:

In the past few days, after the sixth Israeli strike on a Gaza UN shelter for Palestinians fleeing the fighting, the Obama administration sent some pretty harsh words Israel’s way. The attack on the UN facility in Rafah was “indefensible,” according to Senior Adviser to the President Valerie Jarrett, who added that you “can’t condone the killing of all of these innocent children.” UN Ambassador Samantha Power called the Rafah strike “horrifying;” a longer State Department statement named it “disgraceful.”

It’s hard to imagine a clearer signal of administration outrage with Israel at the Gaza campaign, short of a personal statement from the president. The US is clearly upset with Israel, which isn’t all that rare, but this level of public criticism is very unusual. Given the US’s strong commitment to supporting Israel, the Obama criticism probably does not augur any substantive change in that pro-Israel US foreign policy. But it could still matter by impacting domestic Israeli politics, which are highly sensitive to fears of “losing” American support.

I hardly see fear of “losing” America in the current onslaught. I see an Israeli prime minister openly treating the president and secretary of state with contempt and derision, secure in the knowledge that in any battle between Obama and Netanyahu, the Congress will back Netanyahu every time. Waldman nonetheless sees the Gaza conflict contributing to a shift in how Americans think about the conflict:

[I]f this conflict drags on and the civilian casualties mount, more Americans could begin questioning their position on this issue. That doesn’t mean they’ll go from being “pro-Israel” to “anti-Israel,” a pair of perniciously simplistic ideas that discourage us from thinking rationally. It means that they might start seeing the issue as a complex one, where sometimes Israel’s government is right and sometimes it’s wrong, and a contest to see which politician can wave an Israeli flag with the most vigor doesn’t serve America’s interests (or Israel’s, for that matter). If that happens, politicians might actually feel free to enter into real debate on this topic.

Look at the contortions of Rand Paul to see how that will work out. He has had to renounce all his previous views on the subject and now backs Israel with a blank check and wants to cut aid from the only moderate group among Palestinians. And that’s just the price for even entering a nomination battle, let alone winning it. But the shift among the younger generations is a sign for a more balanced approach. Alas, by the time that gains real political clout, the West Bank will be all settlements. Jonathan Ladd believes that US public opinion on Israel has little to do with empirical reality anyway:

First, because Americans are so inattentive to the details of political controversies, and hold such consistent views on every Israeli-Palestinian violent clash, we shouldn’t see their opinions as a reflection on the details of any specific clash. The American public’s endorsement of current Israeli policy largely isn’t a reaction to that policy because most people aren’t following the details at all.

Second, the one thing that could change U.S. mass opinion would be if party elites changed their messages. The one group attachment powerful enough to potentially overwhelm group attitudes is party identification. For instance, if most Democratic politicians in Washington came out against an Israeli military operation, that could potentially lead ordinary Democrats to follow those cues rather than their group attitudes when forming an opinion. If that happened, American mass opinion would likely become much more split than it is today.

But the Democrats are as likely to do that as they are to re-invade Iraq. Just see what Harry Reid just said.

Map Of The Day


Gideon Lichfield captions the above image, which “depicts Twitter accounts that tweeted about the Israeli shelling of a UN school in Beit Hanoun on July 24th”:

The Twitter accounts are arranged according to how many connections they share; the closer two accounts are, the more accounts they both follow. The bigger the circle, the more followers that account has. What emerges from this is distinct groupings: “pro-Palestinian” in green on the right; “pro-Israel” in blue on the left. Lotan has colored most of the international journalists and media outlets in gray; they clearly have more followers among the pro-Palestinian side. The dark blue group in the upper left are American conservatives and Tea-Party types, while the lighter blue are Israeli media outlets and blogs, and American Zionist figures.

The Last And First Temptation Of Israel

Palestinian Dina in difficulty opening her eyes

What is one to make of the fact that the deputy speaker of the Knesset has called for ethnic cleansing in Gaza?

He’s not an obscure blogger for the Times of Israel. He is a luminary of the Likud – a man who got 23 percent of the vote in a contest for the Likud Party leadership. He was appointed to his current high position by Benjamin Netanyahu. And this is his proposal for Gaza:

a) The IDF [Israeli army] shall designate certain open areas on the Sinai border, adjacent to the sea, in which the civilian population will be concentrated, far from the built-up areas that are used for launches and tunneling. In these areas, tent encampments will be established, until relevant emigration destinations are determined. The supply of electricity and water to the formerly populated areas will be disconnected.

b) The formerly populated areas will be shelled with maximum fire power. The entire civilian and military infrastructure of Hamas, its means of communication and of logistics, will be destroyed entirely, down to their foundations.

c) The IDF will divide the Gaza Strip laterally and crosswise, significantly expand the corridors, occupy commanding positions, and exterminate nests of resistance, in the event that any should remain.

You read that right. There will be temporary “camps” where the Gaza population will be “concentrated”; they will be expelled with subsidies; basic supplies of water and electricity will be cut off for those who remain. The war-time ethics he recommends are: “Woe to the evildoer, and woe to his neighbor.” He backs the “annihiliation” of Hamas and all their supporters. His strategic goal is to “turn Gaza into Jaffa, a flourishing Israeli city with a minimum number of hostile civilians.” (Modern Jaffa, of course, was built on the ethnic cleansing of most of its Palestinian inhabitants in 1948.)

The usual response to this kind of thing among the lockstep pro-Israel community is that it is a tiny fringe opinion. And I can only hope they’re right. But what concerns me is that this racist, genocidal bigot was appointed deputy speaker of the Knesset by the current prime minister. What concerns me are the statements of Ayelet Shaked, the telegenic young protege of Naftali Bennett, who is touted as a future prime minister. This is from a Facebook post she wrote the day before the gruesome lynching of an Arab teen who was forced to drink gasoline and then burned to death by Jewish extremists. Note that her call for war came before any Hamas rocket was fired:

Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.

Again, she and Feiglin dispense with the distinction between civilians and militants in Gaza. So too did the president of the New York Board of Rabbis, David-Seth Kirshner, at a recent 10,000 strong rally for Israel in New York. Kirshner’s precise words?

When you are part of an election process that asks for a terrorist organization which proclaims in word and in deed that their primary objective is to destroy their neighboring country and not to build schools or commerce or jobs, you are complicit and you are not a civilian casualty.

In Israel, this theme is intensifying:

The statements of Ovadia Yosef, whose recent passing was met with flattering memorials both in Israel and the US, are legendary. The former Chief Rabbi of Israel and spiritual leader of many Middle Eastern Jews, said, among other things, that Palestinians “should perish from the world” and that “it is forbidden to be merciful to them”; of non-Jews in general, he declared that “Goyim were born only to serve us.” Despite comments like these, his funeral last October was the largest in the country’s history, with 800,000 Israelis attending.

In the past month, Rabbi Noam Perel, head of Bnei Akiva, the largest Jewish religious youth group in the world, called for the mass-murder of Palestinians and for their foreskins to be scalped and brought back as trophies, alluding to an episode in the Book of Samuel; and a Jerusalem city councillor, in charge of security, encouraged a crowd to mimic the Biblical character of Phineas (Pinchas in Hebrew), who murdered a fellow Israelite and his Midianite lover for the “crime” of miscegenation…

One local chief rabbi ruled that bombing Palestinian civilians is permissible, while another, considered a “liberal” by Israeli standards, declared the assault on Gaza to be a holy war mandated by the Torah–one which must be merciless.

Today, the former head of Israel’s National Security Council, Giora Eiland, called for treating all Gazans, including women, as enemy combatants:

We are seeing now that despite the IDF’s impressive fighting, despite the absolute military supremacy, we are in a sort of “strategic tie.” What would have been the right thing to do? We should have declared war against the state of Gaza (rather than against the Hamas organization), and in a war as in a war. The moment it begins, the right thing to do is to shut down the crossings, prevent the entry of any goods, including food, and definitely prevent the supply of gas and electricity … why should Gaza’s residents suffer? Well, they are to blame for this situation just like Germany’s residents were to blame for electing Hitler as their leader and paid a heavy price for that, and rightfully so.

I suppose someone will claim that the deputy speaker of the Knesset, and the former head of the National Security Council or the former chief  rabbi in Israel or the head of the largest Jewish youth group in the world are fringe figures. But I note that, so far as I have been able to find, there have been no consequences for their statements for any of them. And I have to ask a simple question: which leader of another American ally has appointed a man who favors genocide and ethnic cleansing as the deputy speaker of the legislature? Which other democracy has legitimate political parties in the governing coalition calling for permanent occupation of a neighboring state – and deliberate social engineering to create a new demographic ethnic reality in that conquered land? Putin’s Russia has not sunk that low.

And we are not merely talking about a hypothetical situation. The grotesque death toll from Gaza is a distillation of this mindset – revealing at best a chilling contempt for Arab life and at worst, with the shelling of schools and shelters, a policy of indiscriminate hatred and revenge. Yes, killing women and children in shelters is about as low as you can get in wartime. As the State Department, in a rare moment of public candor, noted, it is appalling and disgraceful.

To see in front of one’s nose is a constant struggle. But I see evil in front of noses here – and evil that is gaining strength because of willful American blindness.

(Photo:  9-year-old Dina wounded when shrapnel pieces hit her eyes in an Israeli strike in Gaza, is treated at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza city on August 5, 2014. Palestinian Dina has difficulty in opening her eyes due to the flames and poisoned gas she has exposed in the strike. Update: She’s apparently doing much better. By Mohammed Talatene/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.)

The Walls That Support Hamas


Michael Robbins and Amaney Jamal discuss how Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip has completely failed at its intended goal of wearing down the Islamist group:

[N]ot only has the blockade failed to stem the tide of rockets falling into the hands of Hamas, but it has also failed to weaken Hamas as a movement. If anything, Hamas appears to be stronger and have a broader base of support in Gaza than before the blockade was put in place. Despite the widespread suffering of many Gazans – particularly opponents of the movement – this outcome should not be unexpected. Hamas leaders readily admit that their popularity derives from Palestinian anger at Israeli policies. In a 2008 interview with one of the authors, a senior Hamas official said that his movement’s electoral success boiled down to a single question the movement posed to Palestinians during the 2006 campaign: “Israel and the U.S. say no to Hamas – what do you say?”

Israel’s direct attempts to confront Hamas ultimately benefit the movement and, insofar as Israel seeks to weaken Hamas, the ongoing blockade is a self-defeating strategy. Given domestic political constraints, it will be difficult if not impossible for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to lift the blockade, which could be seen as appeasing Hamas. Its lifting would also be a major victory for Hamas, at least in the short term. Yet if history is any guide, its continuation will not serve to weaken or isolate Hamas, but to help maintain its strength as a movement.

Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson want Hamas recognized rather than bombed, arguing that this is the only way to ever get them to disarm:

The international community’s initial goal should be the full restoration of the free movement of people and goods to and from Gaza through Israel, Egypt, and the sea. Concurrently, the United States and EU should recognize that Hamas is not just a military but also a political force. Hamas cannot be wished away, nor will it cooperate in its own demise. Only by recognizing its legitimacy as a political actor — one that represents a substantial portion of the Palestinian people — can the West begin to provide the right incentives for Hamas to lay down its weapons. Ever since the internationally monitored 2006 elections that brought Hamas to power in Palestine, the West’s approach has manifestly contributed to the opposite result.

The Makings Of A Third Intifada?


David Kenner takes the pulse of the West Bank, where the Gaza bombings have inspired a wave of recent demonstrations, raising fears of a general uprising:

A massive protest last week seemed to momentarily challenge the conventional wisdom that the West Bank was not ready for another uprising. In the largest West Bank demonstration in decades, thousands of Palestinians marched to the Qalandiya checkpoint, where they clashed with Israeli security forces — at least two Palestinians were killed in the violence, and the shops nearby were gutted by fire. The demonstration showed the undeniable Palestinian anger at the war in Gaza, which has so far claimed over 1,400 Palestinian lives. The dynamics of how it was organized, however, suggest that it may prove difficult to replicate. …

There are still demonstrations in the West Bank, but in the absence of active support by the upper echelons of the political leadership, they have remained relatively small and easy for Israeli forces to disperse. Around midafternoon on Aug. 1, dozens of protesters gathered at Ofer Prison, which holds roughly 1,000 Palestinian prisoners and is a common flashpoint for protests. No Fatah flags were in evidence, though many people who dotted the demonstrations carried Hamas’s green flag.

But eventually, David Shulman imagines, the protest movement may become too big for Israel to manage:

Qalandia was one dramatic event, quickly followed by others in Bethlehem, Beit Umar (where three Palestinians were killed), Husan (two killed), and elsewhere. Even if the army somehow manages to suppress the protests now, the Qalandia march shows us what may happen sometime soon. Those of us who are familiar with the situation in the territories have known for years that the thin veil of stability could be torn away at any moment, revealing the volatile reality underneath; and we have also known, as do the grassroots leaders in the villages and towns, that the Occupation will perhaps end when some form of mostly nonviolent resistance achieves large numbers. Tens of thousands of Palestinians may someday be able to wash over the army’s barricades, no doubt at considerable cost in lives; Israel has no viable answer to such a process. No one should, however, assume that when this happens—a third Intifada—it will be entirely Gandhian in tone. And what begins as peaceful civil resistance can swiftly change its color. It could begin tomorrow, or in a year or two, or five.

(Photo: A Palestinian protester holds an Islamic flag walking towards Israeli forces during clashes in the West Bank town of Hebron on August 1, 2014 following a demonstration against Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip and in support of Gaza’s people. By Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images)

Hamas Against The World


This table, drawn up by Adam Taylor, illustrates Hamas’ current relationships with other countries and actors in the Middle East. As you can see, the militant group has few close friends left, and its isolation is a major factor in how the latest Gaza war began and how it might end. In a substantial essay on the origins of the present crisis, Nathan Thrall attributes Hamas’ desperation in large part to the enmity of Egypt’s new leader:

As it became clear that unrest in Egypt wouldn’t lead to Sisi being ousted or to the return of the Brotherhood, Hamas saw only four possible exits. The first was rapprochement with Iran at the unacceptable price of betraying the Brotherhood in Syria and weakening support for Hamas among Palestinians and the majority of Sunni Muslims everywhere. The second was to levy new taxes in Gaza, but these couldn’t make up for the loss in revenue from the tunnels, and would risk stirring up opposition to Hamas rule.

The third was to launch rockets at Israel in the hope of obtaining a new ceasefire that would bring an improvement in conditions in Gaza. … The final option, which Hamas eventually chose, was to hand over responsibility for governing Gaza to appointees of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, despite having defeated it in the 2006 elections.

Recently, Hamas has been urging Hezbollah to open a second front in Israel’s north, but Robert Beckhusen explains why they shouldn’t get their hopes up:

Not only are Hezbollah’s troops better equipped and have significantly larger rocket stockpiles than Hamas, the Iran-backed militia has all of southern Lebanon to fight from. This gives it space to maneuver, retreat and lay ambushes against advancing Israeli armor. Its rockets also are numerous and deadly enough to force the evacuations of northern Israeli towns, as happened during the 2006 war with Israel.

But Israel could be reckoning that Hezbollah won’t be in any hurry to come to Hamas’s aid. There’s no way Hezbollah can afford to do that as long as it’s fighting in Syria. Right now, Hezbollah is bogged down in fierce warfare against the Al Qaida-affiliated Nusrah Front in the mountainous borderlands of Lebanon and Syria. Hezbollah currently is starving out rebels in the Syrian province of Qalamoun, and launched a new offensive with the Lebanese army this week towards the town of Arsal inside Lebanon.